Football: Sugar puts progress before pay-out

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The Independent Online
ALAN SUGAR will miss out on a pounds 237,000 payment from Tottenham Hotspur this year after deciding that the north London club would be better off channelling its cash into developing its stadium and training ground.

The Spurs chairman, who has a 40.5 per cent shareholding, yesterday announced that the club would not be paying its usual half-year dividend to shareholders. It also plans to pass on its final dividend at the end of its financial year in July.

"Given the level of profits and the requirement for further capital spend on the stadium site and training ground any dividend the Company might propose would more of a gesture than a sensible distribution of income," Sugar said.

The move is part of a money-saving exercise which is also likely to see a number of well-known names leave White Hart Lane as the Tottenham team manager, George Graham, reduces the size of his playing squad from 44 to 36. Already on the transfer list are Paolo Tramezzani, Jose Dominguez and Moussa Saib, the Algerian international who has only played a handful of first-team matches, and others are likely to be sold.

The decision to cut the dividend will save Tottenham pounds 586,000 this year. Last year, the club, paid its shareholders a dividend of 0.58p per share, while in the 1996-97 season shareholders received 1p per share in dividends.

Tottenham's finances have come under pressure as the club attempts to rebuild its position as a force in the Premier League while also developing more young players. Progress is being made on the pitch, and on Wednesday Spurs, who are already through to the Worthington Cup final, reached the quarter-finals of the FA Cup with a 2-0 victory over Leeds United in a fifth-round replay.

Yesterday, Tottenham reported a 20 per cent increase in revenues to pounds 23.6m for the six months to the end of January, a figure helped by an increase in average attendances after the club finished redeveloping its North Stand. However, increased costs - including a 28 per cent rise in player salaries - mean that pre-tax profits were broadly flat at pounds 4.1m.

By contrast, Sunderland showed the strain of spending a second season outside the Premier League as their pre-tax profits for the six months to 30 November were halved to pounds 275,000. The fall reflected increased administration expenses and a rise in net transfer spending to pounds 1m.

Losses before transfer payments at the Second Division club Preston North End deepened to pounds 84,000 for the six months to last December, compared to a deficit of pounds 63,000 in the same period of 1997.